Own your challenges

In the wake of recent scandals, some donors and funders are losing confidence in the charity sector. Lim, our creative lead, believes that your annual publication is an excellent opportunity to set the record straight.

Here, he offers his opinion on fostering confidence for the future:

1. Be transparent

It’s more important than ever to show sponsors and funders that you are totally transparent and accountable for what you do. Talk honestly and openly about how your organisation operates and how you treat your staff. Acknowledging challenges will demonstrate your confidence and reassure stakeholders that you are a trustworthy organisation worth supporting.

2. Focus on the positive…

Your organisation helps the most vulnerable in society, so shout about your good work and describe how it has positively impacted on individual lives. Letting people speak for themselves through case studies and personal stories increases authenticity. Support the text with engaging photography and illustrations.

3. …but be honest about the challenges

It’s unrealistic to talk only about positive outcomes and people understand that charities can’t get everything right. Talk openly about the issues you face and describe the risk management policies you have introduced to tackle them.

4. Thank your partners

Donors and partners are great ambassadors for your brand so collect their stories and tell them in the review. While it’s advantageous to showcase prestigious donors and partners, it’s equally important to explain the valuable contribution made by smaller or less high-profile benefactors.

5. Show the problem, not just the solution

Many charities only show the positive outcomes but it can help to remind people what it was like before the charity’s involvement. Showing the ‘before’ as well as the ‘after’ situations will reassure funders that their donations are making a big difference.

6. Keep your audience in mind

An annual publication can have many uses, so keep reminding yourself of the most important audiences and the most likely uses for your publication. This will help you establish relevant themes and ensure your copy and images support your messaging as you work through the production process.

7. Tell a coherent story

Quite often we find that our clients will commission different departments to write contributions for a publication. This is a good starting point but will result in different copy styles and a variable tone of voice. To keep your message coherent, engage a good copywriter to manage, collate, edit and articulate all the different strands into a strong, clear narrative.

8. Show them the money

Donors and partners like to see how their money is being spent so make sure the financial section of your publication is well laid out and described in simple terms. Most people find it hard to decipher company audited accounts but a good designer can help you highlight key elements with infographics, diagrams, charts and colours.

9. Look to the future

Communicating your plans for the future will reassure audiences that your organisation is forward-thinking and set up for the long-term. It’s also a great way to flag up exciting new developments and proposals. Presenting this on a graphic timeline with dates, achievements and goals is more engaging than a block of text.

10. Engage a specialist design agency

Designs play an important role in strengthening your brand and reaching your target audience so collaborate with an agency which understands your organisation. They can advise on the most suitable format – print, digital, both – and will use a range of design tools to underline key content whether it’s fundraising figures or personal testimonials.

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